Brad Thurman slipped into his ladder stand around 6:30 on opening morning of Indiana’s 2005 firearms season. He spotted a glint of rack and raised his binos. A buck was tending a doe nearly 200 yards away, too far for his .50-caliber T/C rifle. He had no idea how big he was anyhow. He hoped the rutting deer would move his way, but they just hung around in the same spot.
Brad watched for 90 minutes, wondering what to do. Then the doe and the big boy bedded down. Brad took a deep breath, climbed down out of his stand and started belly-crawling. He would stop, pop up and glass to make sure the deer were still there. All he could see was one side of the buck’s rack sticking up above some brush.
Ah, don't you love opening day? A neighbor raced up and down on the other side of the property line, his ATV whining and cracking sticks. Brad kept crawling. The noise didn't alarm the deer at all. He looked over to his right and saw a small group of hunters. He motioned to them that he was stalking a buck, and to remain still. They did and he slithered on.
Brad inched up to an old fence post 60 yards from the deer. “I couldn’t believe he was still there," he says. "I was waiting for him to bolt. I mean, this only happens on TV.” Suddenly the buck stood up and Brad almost panicked. He put the crosshairs on the buck, sucked a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. Nothing! The safety! He clicked it off, aimed and fired a 240-grain sabot in a plume of smoke.
“I heard the whump and saw the doe jump up,” recalls Brad. “Then a spike buck comes bolting out of the woods and starts chasing her. A little 6-pointer comes out of nowhere and runs to within 5 yards of me. It was wild.” Brad stood there ramming another round down the barrel.
He didn't need it. The main-frame 12-pointer (200 lbs. field-dressed) went 35 yards. Main beams, 27” plus. Inside spread, 19 5/8”. Forked brow and little drop tine on left side for character. World-class mass: the 8 circumference measurements add up 40 7/8”. The rack grosses 189 3/8” and nets a tidy 176 3/8. The buck ranks in top 10 all-time for Indiana typicals shot with a muzzleloader.
Oh yeah, one more thing. The monster was Brad’s first-ever buck!
Two lessons to remember here: First, hunters who have not killed a lot of deer are often the ones who get the giants because they are not scared to take a chance and try something off the wall, like Brad did that day. On the other hand, the more bucks you shoot and the more experience you get, the more worried you become about pressuring deer with your movement and scent, so you become too tentative and stay too long in one spot some days. Second, the peak of the rut is the time to get aggressive and go for it. If you spot a rut-drunk monster dogging a doe or especially bedded with one, get the wind and try a stalk. More times than not you can sneak into gun or even bow range.